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Offer Me Alternatives

By Greg Galitzine


A recent post from Om Malik�s GigaOm blog pointed out that AT&T, Qwest, and Verizon have seen cumulative losses of 1.75 million voice lines. The beneficiaries of this voice line flight? Cable companies. Now granted, the phone companies are more than holding their own when it comes to broadband access lines, outselling their cable competitors 1.5 million to 909,000 during the same period.

Win or lose, any way you slice it, we�re talking about a duopoly that enjoys the lion�s share of the customers in the voice market. Of course, we need to factor in the wireless carriers, who have enjoyed tremendous increases as customers shy away from subscribing to any fixed line service opting for an �all-mobile, all-the-time� approach, choosing to use their mobile phone as their only phone.

But what about the alternatives? What�s going on with regards to Broadband over Powerline (BPL) or WiMAX (define - news - alerts), for example?

Intel (news - alerts) and the NDS Group (a supplier of open end-to-end digital pay TV solutions for the secure delivery of entertainment and information to set-top boxes and IP devices) recently announced a joint venture to offer television and videos via WiMAX.

The solution is designed to deliver live TV streams and video on demand (VOD), including an integrated electronic program guide (EPG), to a laptop with an Intel Centrino on the basis of 802.16 and 802.11.

Also, MediaRing announced the official launch of AngkorNet, the first Internet Service Provider in Cambodia to offer tiered and bundled packages of high-speed Internet access and other data applications using WiMAX technology. AngkorNet delivers up to 90 percent WiMAX coverage in Phnom Penh.

Current Communications Group (news - alerts) recently announced that it had secured $130 million from investors. The company, which has developed technology to provide high-speed Internet access over power lines, is already offering BPL service to consumers in Cincinnati and Texas.

New investors in the company include TXU Corp., General Electric, EarthLink, Inc., which will resell Current�s broadband services via the retail channel, and Sensus Metering Systems. Existing equity investors include Duke Energy Corporation, EnerTech Capital Partners, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Google Inc., Hearst Corporation, and Liberty Associated Partners, LP.

It�s interesting to see that EarthLink and Google are major investors in a BPL provider. These two companies are prime examples of service providers that do not own their own infrastructure and are, therefore, basically at the whim of phone and cable companies when it comes to gaining access to pipes to deliver their services to customers. As the debate over Net Neutrality evolves, it will be fascinating to see if this opportunity pans out.

The point is that there are options out there, and serious investors with deep pockets are placing bets on the success of these other alternatives. I�m curious to see how this plays out, and to see what new technologies might emerge to pose a challenge to today�s status quo. The possibilities are limitless. IT

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